Drowsy Driving Accident Settlements & Lawsuits

“Drowsy driving” occurs when a person who is operating a motor vehicle is too tired to remain alert. As a result the driver may have slow reaction times, reduced vigilance and impaired thinking. In the worst case the driver may fall asleep behind the wheel.

Davis Law Group has represented countless victims of motor vehicle accidents caused by a drowsy driver that fell asleep at the wheel. If you have been injured by a driver who fell asleep and caused an accident, it may be in the best interests of you and your family to consult with an attorney about your legal options.  Call Davis Law Group at (206) 727-4000 or use the contact form on this page to schedule a free consultation.

Liability: Sleepy Drivers Are Responsible For The Accidents They Cause

Sleep-caused car accidents are almost always the fault of the drowsy driver who has a legal duty of care.  Drivers have an obligation to drive safely—being mindful of the safety and wellbeing of themselves and others.  Drivers that fall asleep at the wheel have violated their legal duty of care and are legally responsible for the damages they cause. 

Who’s causes drowsy driving accidents?

  • Drivers who use medications that make them sleepy.
  • Drivers who do not get enough sleep.
  • Semi-truck & tractor trailer drivers.
  • Tow truck drivers.
  • Bus drivers.
  • who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.
  • Shift workers (work the night shift or long shifts).
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Semi Truck Crashes Caused By Fatigued Truckers

Drowsy driving crashes are most frequently cases by commercial truck drivers; shift workers; drivers with sleep disorders (sleep apnea); drivers taking sedative medications; and those who don’t get adequate sleep. According to a study by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a third of semi truck accidents are caused by truckers falling asleep behind the wheel.

More than a third of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, and more than one in ten has fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year.

National Drowsy Driving Accident Statistics

A third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep.  Studies have show that about 20 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents in the US involve a drowsy driver.  According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to be in a motor vehicle collision as drivers who get seven or more hours of sleep.  

The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year. About 71,000 drowsy-related crashes involve non-fatal injuries. The estimated annual monetary loss related to drowsy driving is about $12.5 billion. Drowsy driving often goes unreported when police complete an accident report. Unless the driver admits falling asleep, drowsy driving can be difficult to detect.

In 2014 there were at least 846 fatalities that were drowsy-driving-related in the US. These reported fatalities (and drowsy-driving crashes overall) have remained largely consistent across the past decade. Between 2005 and 2009 there was an estimated average of 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving.

Fatality Data: Deaths Caused By Drowsy Driving Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of injury crashes involve a driver that has fallen asleep-at-the-wheel.  Other organizations estimate that 5,000 or 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers,

Washington State Drowsy-Driver Accident Data

The following represents the serious injury and fatality data for drowsy-driver-involved crashes over the last 10 years in Washington State as reported by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Fatal Injury / Death - 32
Serious Injury - 90

Fatal Injury / Death - 7
Serious Injury - 65

Fatal Injury / Death - 11
Serious Injury - 77

Fatal Injury / Death - 16
Serious Injury - 60

Fatal Injury / Death - 12
Serious Injury - 72

Fatal Injury / Death - 12
Serious Injury - 53

Fatal Injury / Death - 10
Serious Injury - 61

Fatal Injury / Death - 14
Serious Injury - 55

Fatal Injury / Death - 16
Serious Injury - 67

Fatal Injury / Death - 15
Serious Injury - 55

References & Resources

  • Currin, Andrew. "Drowsy Driving Crashes and Fatalities." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). U.S. Department of Transportation, 02 Mar. 2017. Web.
  • Bunn, T. L., S. Slavova, T. W. Struttmann, and S. R. Browning. "Sleepiness/fatigue and Distraction/inattention as Factors for Fatal versus Nonfatal Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Injuries." Accident Analysis & Prevention 37.5 (2005): 862-69. Print.
  • "Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 05 Nov. 2015. Web.
  • National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and National Institutes of Health. "Drowsy Driving & Automobile Crashes." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation, 1998. Web.
Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.